A hearing test could help those suffering from the so-called ‘cocktail party problem’.
Many struggle – particularly over the festive season – to hear someone speaking to them against the background noise at a busy gathering. It often affects older partygoers who are losing their hearing, but can start in your 20s.
An estimated 15 per cent of sufferers have normal hearing. This means a traditional hearing test – which sees people asked to press a button when they hear beeps of varying volume – fails to diagnose most sufferers.
Many struggle – particularly over the festive season – to hear someone speaking to them against the background noise at a busy gathering (file image)
Now scientists from University College London and Newcastle University have created a new method to diagnose the condition. The test reveals if someone’s brain cannot separate out conversation or if it is the change of pitch in a voice that they struggle with.
This could lead to ‘brain training’ for sufferers to practise listening to electronic tones so they can hear better in large groups.
Researchers hope the ten-minute test could be available on the NHS within three to five years, along with an effective treatment.
Now scientists from University College London and Newcastle University have created a new method to diagnose the condition (file image)
In order to create the test, researchers examined 97 participants with normal hearing, playing them a recording of 16 people speaking at once. The participants, aged 18 to 60, had to focus on the loudest speaker, matching their five-word sentence to a selection of words.
They were also played electronic tones over background noise and asked to listen out for sound patterns similar to speech. Those who suffer from the cocktail party effect tend to struggle with this.
Dr Emma Holmes, a neuroscientist at UCL, told the journal Scientific Reports: ‘Our new tests could be used alongside the traditional hearing test, and would only take an extra five to ten minutes to complete.
‘Hearing problems can be very stressful and this could be helpful in providing… something closer to a diagnosis for why [people] struggle to hear in noisy environments.’